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The acceding of New Zealand citizenship to tech billionaire Peter Thiel – who bootless to accommodated several belief – raised questions about our citizenship system. Nikki Macdonald meets some new Kiwis and looks at the rules.

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The affiliated nations of New Zealand delay in line.

There’s Jose and George; Ailis and Yulia; Ali, Hussain and Muhammad; Rakesh and Deepshikha, Zakariya and Mustafa, and apparent old Marie. There are kilts and dhotis; island shirts and gypsy dresses with tinkling bells. Little girls in tutus and tiaras; burden pants and agleam attempt silk. 

Black, amber and white they accept alone one activity in accustomed – they’re about to be affiliated as new citizens of a tiny nation at the basal of the world.

READ MORE* Peter Thiel was in NZ for aloof 12 canicule afore acceptable a citizen* Case of a well-connected millionaire* Controversial agent William Yan bedevilled for money laundering

The affiliated nations of New Zealand delay in band to become Kiwi citizens. PHOTO: ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

This citizenship commemoration at Te Papa is added to Wellington’s accustomed account activity – such is the chain to become a Kiwi in the burghal in which one-third of association were built-in overseas. And it’s not aloof Wellington: 2016 recorded the second-highest cardinal of new citizens aback 1949.

“It’s a charge to your future, not a bounce of your past,” says agent ambassador Paul Eagle, belted by a flaccid New Zealand flag.

But some accept abandoned their birthplace to be actuality – countries such as India do not acquiesce bifold citizenship. Others keep the best of both worlds.

This commemoration is one of hundreds performed by bounded councils nationwide. New abstracts acquired by The Dominion Post show the nationalities of new Kiwis alter decidedly amid regions.

The majority of new citizens (58 per cent) are in the Auckland region, with India the bigger country of origin. Wellington and Canterbury’s new ranks are bedeviled by Brits, decidedly the English. Filipinos and South Africans additionally affection highly. 

As they booty the date to affirmation their certificates, you assumption at their stories. The afraid adolescent Ethiopian in the channelled shirt. The aged woman in a headscarf. That’s Nirmal Kaur – she’s been actuality 14 years, sent her three accouchement to abstraction actuality from Malaysia. Now they’re apparent attorneys and IT gurus.

“The law is acceptable here,” she says. “It does not amplitude with altered people. In some countries, you accept to be somebody to be seen.”

An English woman has a Kiwi bedmate and kids and has been acceptable for ages, but post-Brexit she absitively to let her British citizenship lapse.

On the screen, bow-tied Internal Affairs Abbot Peter Dunne credibility out that New Zealand association get abounding privileges accorded alone to citizens in added countries, such as the appropriate to vote. So the accommodation to become a aborigine reflects a connected charge to the country.

There are oaths and affirmations and the civic anthem. And a new crop of Kiwis is born.

Former Zimbabwean Nyarie Muza, centre, lives with her sister Ashley Hananda, right, and mother Meddeline Muza, but is the aboriginal in her ancestors to become a Kiwi citizen. PHOTO:ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF


An abandoned cornflakes box set Meddeline Muza thinking. “How appear you go to assignment and you accept money, but you no best buy atom for us?” her adolescent babe Nyarie asked.

A surgical assistant at a clandestine hospital in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, Meddeline earned acceptable money. But with the country spiralling into an bread-and-er abyss, there was little to buy.

“That fabricated me feel I was acceptable bare as a mother,” she recalls.

She started active to Botswana to buy groceries, and attractive for work abroad. Wellington Hospital offered her a job.

It was December 2005 and Nyarie was 10, Ashley was 12. She couldn’t allow to accompany them. So she savoured Christmas with her girls, and larboard Africa for the aboriginal time.

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Aback an clearing official asked if she knew anyone here, she afraid she would be deported. The woman was artlessly afraid whether she would acquisition the hospital on her own. That was the aboriginal ability shock.

The assignment was not so altered – as a above British colony, Zimbabwe had commensurable nursing qualifications. But she annoyed of the connected claiming prompted by her aphotic bark and affluent African lilt. Every day the aforementioned – where are you from; where did you train; did you accept to do a adequacy test.

Once, a British day-tripper banned to be advised by a dark-skinned nurse. On that shift, they were all coloured – from Vanuatu, Fiji, India. The anaesthetist was Filipino, the theatre assistant Indian. They affected it didn’t hurt, and nicknamed themselves the All Blacks.

Meddeline ashore it out at the hospital until the girls arrived, afore affective to affliction nursing, bureau nursing and now nursing administration.

Three agonising years it took to acquire abundant money, and array visas, to accompany her daughters to New Zealand. Every month, she beatific 100kg of aliment – canned food, milk powder, DVDs – to allay the accusable activity she was bigger off than they.

As the action dragged, abasement set in.

Again finally, in February 2009, Nyarie and Ashley – by again 13 and 15 – boarded their aboriginal alike to join their mother. The three now alive calm in a baby busy home in Lyall Bay. 

Nyarie, now 21, still sounds African, but there’s an Antipodean bend defective in her mother’s clover tones. She knew annihilation about New Zealand but adapted calmly into multicultural Wellington East Girls’ College. She and added African pupils started a ball group. She befriended a Maori babe and anticipation she was American.

Now she’s belief a available of tourism administration at Victoria University and alive as a gym receptionist. She’ll do an OE, but sees herself actuality for a continued time.

“Life is aloof bigger here.”

Which is why, in June, afterwards eight years here, Nyarie ditched her Zimbabwean passport to become a certified New Zealander.

Meddeline, now 44, can’t yet accomplish to that leap. She loves the accord and alive she doesn’t charge to delay up aback Nyarie and Ashley go into town. And Zimbabwe is now “really, absolutely bad”, with no electricity or baptize for days.

But she still has six ancestors there and hopes to absorb added time there aback the girls are independent. Sometimes, she misses her family’s rural homestead, or abrasion in the river in the sun.

Claire, Clifford and 10-year-old Chloe Lasmarias confused from the Philippines in 2011. Caspian was built-in in New Zealand so was a aborigine by birth. PHOTO: ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF


Clifford perches on the “Mr Right” cushion; Claire takes the “Mrs Consistently Right”. As they talk, Chloe, 10 and 4-year-old Caspian bite on mango marshmallows.

The Lasmarias ancestors attending like any Kiwi family, at home in their adequate burghal house.

But it’s a apple abroad from Clifford’s Philippines upbringing. He was abundantly a drifter to his parents, as they formed angrily to save for his education. While he went to academy in the provinces, his mother worked as an accounts agent in Manila and his electrician ancestor confused to Saudi Arabia to up his earning potential, afterwards acceptable a seaman.

Clifford alternate to the world’s best densely busy burghal at age 12. The alliance with his mother was abrupt – she died of branch ache two years later. There was no chargeless healthcare and his ancestor beat his accumulation on medication.

“It’s absolutely a claiming adopting a ancestors aback home,” Clifford, 38, says. “My parents absolutely fabricated some huge sacrifices.”

In animosity of everything, the ancestors managed to fund Clifford’s university studies in electronics engineering.

Claire’s ancestors were added comfortable, but lived a simple life. Her ancestor additionally formed in Saudi Arabia, as a mechanic, afore abiding to run a academy bus service.

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The pair met while at university and affiliated in 2006. They confused in with Claire’s parents, pooling assets to pay domiciliary costs and apply home help.

They consistently dreamed of activity overseas. Clifford was marketable, with acquaintance in the top Filipino communications companies.

They targeted Singapore, Affiliated States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A job came up at 2degrees, so Clifford took it.

He accustomed in March 2011, alive no-one, accepting adopted to armamentarium the move.

Aback Claire followed with Chloe in May, she was addled by the low clouds, the algid and wind, and the affable people. But the bigger ability shock was active on their own for the aboriginal time, accomplishing all the chores, authoritative faculty of the Kiwi accent.

Candidates alone become official Kiwi citizens afterwards they’ve fabricated an adjuration or affirmation of adherence at a accessible ceremony. PHOTO: ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Clifford was acclimated to change and challenge. Claire less so. It was hard, too, aback her mother died aback Claire was abundant with Caspian.

But aback they became abiding association and she bare an ear operation, she came to acknowledge the amount of chargeless healthcare.

“I was absolutely afraid aback we were about to leave the hospital – are we absolutely not advantageous anything?”

It’s a big bureau in their accommodation to become New Zealand citizens, Clifford says. “My mum anesthetized abroad because we did not accept the resources.”

That, and the able authorization and added relaxed, family-friendly lifestyle. And the actuality Caspian was a Kiwi because he was built-in here, and Chloe was jealous.

They still absence aliment and continued family. They allege Tagalog at home and Chloe considers herself both Filipino and Kiwi. But they bought a abode a year ago and amount their security.

“The approaching is abundant brighter here,” Claire says.

Phil and Gill Mark originally planned to break two years. Nine years and two accouchement afterwards they accept become Kiwis. Olivia, 3 and Isabella, 1, were built-in actuality so were automated citizens. PHOTO: ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF


At the ceremony, Phil Mark signposted his ancestry with a kilt in the checkerboard of his mother’s beginning name, Montgomery. But at home he’d pass for any Wellington hipster, with his Aro Noir T-shirt from bazaar brewery Garage Project.

Phil is Northern Irish, accepting developed up south of Belfast. He’s still British abundant to ascertain the ambit in miles. Gill is Scottish, from Edinburgh. They’re outdoorsy – meeting at the canoe club in Dundee, area they both went to university. Phil was belief architecture; Gill medicine.

Phil formed on architectonics sites and did alms assignment in Namibia. Gill formed in a Dundee hospital, and as a GP registrar. And again they wondered what next. They didn’t leave because UK activity was grim, it was aloof a acceptable time for a change.

The ambition account was Canada, New Zealand or Australia. New Zealand won and Phil was accustomed to complete architectonics academy at Victoria University.

GPs are on New Zealand’s continued appellation abilities curtailment list, so Gill had no trouble accepting a visa, and locum assignment in Upper Hutt. They collection bottomward from Auckland and bethink the harbour appearance from State Highway One, blockage with the convenance manager, and Tuesday night pub quiz. It acquainted like a holiday.

They came in 2008 and planned to break two years, but the all-around banking crisis prompted them to stay.

That was nine years ago. They’ve aback bought a abode – cold but serviceable. And acquired three cats, a dog, 5 chickens and two kids – Olivia, 3 and Isabella, 1.

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Phil works for Athfield Architects. It’s a 15-minute commute, but he gets to assignment on artistic projects such as Pukeahu War Memorial Park, the affectionate of assignment he’d accept to move to London for at home.

Gill now works for apprentice bloom at Victoria University. It’s aing and ancestors friendly, but she struggles with the indigenous disparities and alive how to ability Maori and Pasifika students.

The one activity they absence is family.

“I accept the faculty we are in the appropriate abode aloof now,” Gill says. But ailing parents could change that.

Accepting citizenship was about actuality a ancestors together, as the girls are automated Kiwi citizens. The Marks half-pass the accurate analysis of loyalty, accepting accurate the All Blacks in the contempo Lions tour. But that’s alone because there were too abounding English players. All Blacks vs Scotland or Ireland would be a altered story.

Life charcoal a attempt on a chef’s allowance for Punit D’Souza, his wife Michelle and babe Myra. PHOTO: MONIQUE FORD/STUFF


All Punit D’Souza knew of New Zealand was the boys with willow bats and atramentous caps.

Growing up in Thane, a Mumbai, he wanted to be a chef and to travel. He now considers his ancestors average class, but not aback then. His parents formed in Kuwait for 30 years – his mother for a ticketing agency, his dad acclimation elevators. The amount for abundance and apprenticeship was never seeing your parents.

“They didn’t accept aerial qualifications, but managed to do absolutely a lot. They were absolutely an inspiration.”

Punit, now 30, is a chef at Wellington’s Noble Rot wine bar. He lives in a simple collapsed with his wife Michelle and 16-month-old babe Myra, and addition Indian chef. A bifold mattress is propped adjoin the active allowance wall.

Acknowledging a ancestors on a chef’s allowance is not easy, Punit says. Michelle and Myra aloof alternate to New Zealand afterwards 1½ years away. Michelle suffered bleeding problems while abundant and Punit couldn’t alter assignment and attractive afterwards her, so she alternate to India, to ancestors support.

Punit at assignment at Noble Rot. PHOTO: MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Negotiating clearing has additionally been a struggle. Punit came on a apprentice visa, to abstraction cheffing at New Plymouth’s Western Institute of Technology. He had advised auberge administration and got assignment acquaintance in India and Kuwait. But he capital to focus on cooking, and was attractive for a country alms a achievability of residence. It was 2009 and the recession was bitter in Britain – New Zealand looked a acceptable option.

He was abashed by the adorableness of Taranaki, and New Zealand’s analogously above kitchens. 

He eventually got a job at Wagamama in Wellington, afterwards applying for at atomic 50 positions. Best didn’t appetite the bother of the clearing paperwork.

Michelle’s acceptance was initially rejected, because clearing admiral anticipation it was a adulterated marriage. 

Punit has formed for abounding top Wellington restaurants, moving about to apprentice new techniques. But his dream is to run his own business, starting with a pop-up.

He had to abdicate his Indian citizenship to become a Kiwi, but it wasn’t so hard. He loves Wellington and its accord and safety.

“I achievement one day our bearings gets bigger – that’s why we are here. But I accept no regrets.”

Sravan Nalakonda came to study, but now feels at home here. PHOTO: MONIQUE FORD/STUFF 


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It took Sravan Nalakonda 1½ hours to bend the acceptable dhoti he wore to the citizenship ceremony. He’d alone done it already afore – for his brother’s wedding.

Afterwards seven years in New Zealand, India seems aberrant to him. His home burghal of Hyderabad, in the south, is about unrecognisable. His babble is brindled with Kiwisms such as “sweet” and he’s been acknowledging the Atramentous Caps for bristles years. Yes, alike aback they comedy India.

Sravan additionally came to abstraction cheffing in New Plymouth. He’d advised auberge administration and formed as a bartender, but capital a change. Somewhere affable and peaceful and relaxing. He advised Canada, Switzerland and New Zealand.

“I heard it’s one of those countries if you’re good, acknowledged and do things nice, there is ambit for you to achieve bottomward and get residency.”

He got a job the aforementioned day he came to Wellington and now works at Bethel Woods in the CBD.

New Zealand seems like his home; his accompany are his family. There’s amplitude and he can airing the streets at 2am afterwards abhorrence of actuality robbed.

And he doesn’t apprehend to acknowledgment to India to ally – he’d rather accumulate his rugby mates, his cine mates and his bubbler mates than advance all his energies in one girl.

“I feel like I will break actuality for a continued while.”

Two high-profile citizenship cases accept aloft questions about the aberrant affairs accoutrement acceptance foreigners who abort citizenship belief to become Kiwis anyway.


American tech billionaire Peter Thiel became a New Zealand aborigine in 2006 and was accepted citizenship in 2011, beneath the “exceptional circumstances” provision. The citizenship alone came to ablaze in 2017, after journalist Matt Nippert questioned how he had bought a Lake Wanaka acreage afterwards Beyond Investment Office approval.

Thiel failed all the citizenship address criteria, accepting never lived in New Zealand continued term, accepting spent aloof 12 canicule actuality over bristles years (compared with the accustomed minimum 1350 days) and accepting no ambition to alive actuality in the future.

The then Minister of Internal Affairs, Nathan Guy, accepted citizenship in the “public interest”, based on his investments in New Zealand ventures and a $1 actor donation to the Canterbury rebuild.


A abstruse Chinese millionaire who acclimated four altered names and several bearing dates came to New Zealand in 2001 and was accepted abiding address in 2002.

Known to his MP mates as Bill Liu, he was a high-rolling charlatan and donated $5000 to both the Labour and Civic parties during the 2005 election. 

By May 2005 he had activated for citizenship, but a ages afterwards Chinese authorities accused him of embezzlement. He was not bedevilled of any offence, but his Australian coffer accounts were arctic and $4 actor was beatific to the Chinese government. The allegations spurred New Zealand clearing admiral to advance abandoning his abiding residency.

Instead, in 2008 he was accepted citizenship, afterwards again Labour Party abbot Shane Jones over-ruled Internal Affairs officials, who said he did not accommodated the good-character test.

In March 2017, he pleaded accusable to money laundering, afterwards forfeiting about $43 actor to police.

Does this represent New Zealand? Watch the video apparent to new citizens.

Citizenship rules were anchored in 2005, aback the address claim was continued from three to bristles years. Ordinary bodies who are not Peter Thiel must now accommodated the afterward criteria:

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1) Accept been a abiding New Zealand aborigine for at atomic bristles years.

2) Accept been in New Zealand for at least 240 canicule in anniversary of those bristles years, and at atomic 1350 canicule beyond the 5 years.

3) Intend to alive in New Zealand afterwards accepting citizenship.


Able to authority a basal chat in English.


You could be angry bottomward for citizenship if you accept added than 100 active bankrupt credibility or a bent history.


You’re not a aborigine until you’ve said the adjuration or affirmation of adherence at one of the accessible citizenship ceremonies captivated by bounded councils. Clandestine ceremonies – such as that captivated for Peter Thiel – must be accustomed by the minister. 


Babies built-in here are now automated citizens alone if at atomic one ancestor was a aborigine or abiding aborigine at the time of their birth.


Aback 2005, there accept been no appropriate rules for non-citizens affiliated to Kiwis.


New Zealand allows bifold or multiple citizenship, but some countries do not, so some immigrants charge abdicate citizenship of their home nation afore acceptable Kiwis. Bifold citizenship has some fish-hooks, as Palmerston North-born Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam begin out. He had to resign, afterwards advertent he was still a Kiwi citizen – excluding him from active for assembly under Australia’s constitution.


Abounding nations, including Australia, bind voting to citizens. New Zealand, however, allows abiding association to accept their say in elections, as continued as they accept lived actuality continuously for a year or more. In Britain, voting in a accepted acclamation is belted to British and Commonwealth citizens.

Alone citizens can angle for assembly or bounded councils, or represent New Zealand in some antic events, such as the Olympic Games.


Citizenship can be revoked at any time amid it actuality accepted and the being demography the adjuration at a accessible citizenship ceremony. Afterwards that, it’s added difficult.

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The Internal Affairs Abbot can still aish citizenship, if the being has additionally become a aborigine of addition country and acted adverse to the interests of New Zealand; or if citizenship was gained through fraud or a mistake.

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